) -- Oil prices were hovering near $79 a barrel Wednesday ahead of weekly data from the Energy Information Administration.

Crude oil for February delivery was trading at $78.98, up 11 cents in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Its intraday high was $79.19.

Oil prices have risen for six straight days but traded as low as $78.52 on Wednesday after the American Petroleum Institute reported an increase of 1.725 million barrels in U.S. inventories last week; expectations were for a drop of 2 million barrels.

EIA data last week showed crude stocks were down 4.9 million barrels. The EIA report is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. EST Wednesday.

If the EIA data shows a reduction in stockpiles, oil prices are expected to move higher, Clarence Chu, a trader with Hudson Capital Energy in Singapore, told the

Associated Press

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. Oil prices will decline if the EIA data show a build-up in inventories

Oil prices have risen about 70% in 2009.

-- Reported by Joseph Woelfel in New York.

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